Avi Jorisch is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council and founder of IMS, a merchant processing company that serves clients nationwide. He spent the summer of 2014 in Israel watching the Iron Dome defense system protect the country from Hamas missile attacks. It prompted him to learn about other Israeli innovations, and it led to his new book, “Thou Shalt Innovate: How Israeli Ingenuity Repairs the World” (Gefen Publishing).
How did you decide which innovations to include in the book?
I looked at those that were positively influencing the world and were highly innovative. I chose 15 … that were meant to give readers a small taste of what an incredibly innovative society Israel has become, and how its technology is improving the lives of billions of people around the world … when it comes to medicine, science, agriculture, defense, water and the environment.
Tell us a fun fact you came across in your research.
The year 2012 was the first time projectiles were shot out of the sky in mid-air with a 90 percent success rate. It [Iron Dome] is an innovation that not only saves Jewish Israeli lives but also Palestinian lives because it means Israel doesn’t have to enter the Gaza Strip at the first sign of rocket fire. And it is the only missile in the world that has embedded in it pieces of equipment purchased at Toys “R” Us.
You point out that Israel’s foreign aid program is based on a desire for social justice, reconstruction and rehabilitation — which are also at the heart of Judaism. Do you believe those qualities are responsible for the spirit of innovation among Israelis?
For 3,000 years we have had a prophetic tradition that has encouraged the Children of Israel to find higher meaning. The heart and soul of Judaism is taking something mundane and making it holy. … Israel today is what happens when the prophetic tradition meets technology.
The book highlights several projects that are the result of joint Israeli Arab-Israeli Jewish collaboration. Were you aware of them before you started your research?
I really didn’t and it was a wonderful surprise. For example, Eli Beer, the founder of United Hatzalah, did three things to change the culture of emergency response: He created an army of 5,000 emergency responders around the country, he gave each of them an application on their smartphone so that the five nearest emergency responders to the scene of a crisis are immediately alerted, and many of them now have an ambucycle — a hybrid between an ambulance and a motorcycle. An emergency responder on average gets there within three minutes — and in major cities it takes an average of 90 seconds. United Hatzalah is not a Jewish organization, it is a lifesaving organization … whose volunteers range from across the religious and political spectrum—Arabs, Jews, Christians, Muslims, everyone in the West Bank and in Israel proper.
You revealed the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was saved by an Israeli-made bandage after she was shot in the head by a would-be assassin as she spoke with constituents in a supermarket parking lot. How did you learn that?
Even the [bandage] company itself didn’t know for certain, and I shared the information with them. There had been rumors that their bandage had saved her and I was able to definitely prove that the emergency bandage had played a role in saving her life. The innovator was an American who made aliyah and the family of the company’s CEO came from Yemen. The factory that makes the bandage is owned by an Arab Muslim Bedouin and it employs 50 women — only women. That bandage today is standard issue in the IDF [Israel Defense Forces], the U.S. military and many other militaries and law enforcement agencies around the world because it because it [can produce up to 30 pounds of pressure using a built-in handlebar] that stops massive bleeding and prevents infection.
What do you hope readers will come away with after reading this book?
I hope they will be inspired to think about Israel in a different light. Israel and its technology are acting as a force for good. Israel is playing a disproportionally large role in solving some of the most challenging and vexing problems facing humanity and the planet Earth.